19.11.2014 Insa Thiel

Hidden ornamentation: Ceramics museum in Seville

From outside, it is difficult to guess what is hidden behind the historical façades of Triana, the old artisans’ district of Seville. In the inner courtyard, a new extension nestles gently against the borders of the existing plot and forms a modern exhibition floor. Above all, the Centro Céramica Triana asserts itself by means of its façade décor: a superimposed steel grid filled with ceramic sleeves of various sizes encases the new space.

Architect: AF6 Arquitectos, Seville
Location: Calle San Jorge, Triana, 41010 Seville, Spain
The entryway to the ensemble comprises an imposing corner house, bedecked with ceramic tiles and advertising placards, which is home to sales areas and work spaces. The restrained decoration on the parapet is the only thing that hints at the ornamentation that awaits visitors on the façade in the inner courtyard. The fact that the design prepared by the architectural studio starts with the inner courtyard recalls the original characteristics of this factory building, which is typical for the area. Whereas the sales, storage and living spaces faced the street, craft work and production took place in the rear courtyards.
The Cerámica Santa Ana Rodriguez Diaz ceramics factory was decommissioned in the 1970s and has been a protected historical monument since 1999. This special status explains the gentle treatment the structure has enjoyed. The entire production facility and historical façade were not to be changed; therefore, these elements were specifically highlighted for the museum. The architects removed only the most dilapidated partition walls and filled in a few gaps in the masonry; on the ground floor, this created a sort of pathway leading along the old structure and archaeological findings.
Old smokestacks and ventilation shafts characterize the old inner courtyard and were once components of the factory’s kilns. Two of these have been integrated into the project and now form a central access area connecting the ground floor with the basement.

The added-on, jutting upper storey is made possible by means of a steel lattice which takes up the theme of the historical findings. Should more visitor space be required in the kilns on the ground floor, the ‘floating’ body simply moves back and contracts to a narrow corridor. In contrast, it juts into the inner courtyard and offers the necessary space for exhibitions.
Find more projects on the topic of »Interiors and Lighting« in DETAIL 10/2014.
The suspended steel grid with its ceramic sleeves serves primarily as shelter from the sun. The sleeves have been stacked closer together on the exterior walls of the south-facing rooms. In shadier places, they allow both a view out and let in as much daylight as possible.

It is not only the colour of the sleeves that gives a concordant look to the façade’s extension. The historical structure harmonizes with the new sunshade as well. With their seemingly random arrangement, the ceramic sleeves in four different sizes – 10, 15, 20 and 30 cm – strikingly announce the content of the building and call to mind their original storage space in the production facility. In this way, the contemporary façade portrays a familiar scene from the manufacturing rooms. This type of sunshade is reminiscent of the local decorative wood lattices, adopted originally from Arab culture and known as mashrabiya. These screens help keep interior spaces cool and prevent unwanted glances from outside, but visitors can easily see out.
With the Centro Cerámica, the architects have succeeded in creating a locally typical, restrained extension to the existing building design. The museum is thus the result of an historical process, combined with existing conditions, which has led to a building that has quite clearly been developed from its function. Without making any significant impact on the look of the city, it has nestled into the existing structural limitations and yet nonetheless discreetly creates an imposing new museum. Behind their walls, the three completely different and inconspicuous street-side façades conceal the new features as they would a small treasure.  Visitors embark on a labyrinthine journey as they are led through an authentic portrayal of the various stages involved in ceramic production and the naturally preserved stony, dusty remains. The suspended façade, in some places, is purely decorative and is not meant to offer shelter from the sun. All the same, it provides a thematic reference to the history of the old factory.
Project data Client: Consorcio Turismo de Sevilla
Team: Miguel Hernández Valencia, Esther López Martín, Juliane Potter, Ángel González Aguilar, Francisco José Domínguez Saborido
Site area: 1,510 m²
Usable space: 2,241 m²
Budget: 3.4 million Euro
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